The 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Yoga (starts at $1,377; $2,592 as tested) is Lenovo’s flagship 2-in-1 hybrid laptop for business, the convertible cousin of the multiple-award-winning ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Like its corporate rivals the Dell Latitude 9410 2-in-1 and the HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7, it features impeccable engineering and design, plus all the manageability an IT department could desire. Also like them, it’s painfully expensive compared with consumer convertibles—next to the X1 Yoga, the HP Spectre x360 14 that just won our Editors’ Choice honors among premium 2-in-1s offers a richer OLED display with a more eye-pleasing 3:2 aspect ratio, a faster processor, and twice the storage for almost $900 less.
The Face Is Familiar
Compared to the Gen 4 model we reviewed in September 2019, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5 seen here upgrades from 8th to 10th Generation Intel silicon and from Wi-Fi 5 to 6. The $1,377 base model has a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a touch screen with full HD resolution.
My test unit, $2,592 at CDW, flaunts a quad-core, 1.8GHz (4.9GHz turbo) Core i7-10610U vPro CPU, 16GB of memory, a 512GB NVMe SSD, and a 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) IPS Dolby Vision HDR 400 touch panel with 500 nits of brightness. Two in-between screens are available, one a 1080p privacy screen and the other with WQHD (2,560 by 1,440) resolution, as is a 1TB drive. Windows 10 Pro is standard, though you can save a few bucks by opting for Windows 10 Home or Ubuntu Linux; LTE mobile broadband is optional.
Like other ThinkPads’, the X1 Yoga’s machined aluminum chassis is clad in conservative matte black and has survived MIL-STD 810G torture tests for shock, vibration, sand and dust ingress, and temperature and humidity extremes. The screen barely wobbles when tapped in laptop mode, and there’s virtually no flex if you grasp its corners or press the keyboard deck. At 3 pounds, the Lenovo is relatively light for a 14-inch convertible, though heftier than the 2.4-pound ThinkPad X1 Carbon clamshell. It measures 0.59 by 12 by 8.5 inches, giving or taking half an inch to the Latitude 9410 2-in-1 (0.59 by 12.6 by 7.9 inches).
Except for an SD or microSD card slot, the X1 Yoga has all the ports and connectors you could ask for. Two Thunderbolt 3 ports, either suitable for the USB Type-C power adapter, are on the left, along with USB 3.2 Type-A and HDMI ports, an audio jack, and a connector for a proprietary Ethernet dongle ($35). The right edge holds a Kensington lock slot, an always-on USB-A 3.2 port, the niche for storing and recharging the provided pen, and the power button. A fingerprint reader and a face-recognition webcam give you two ways to access Windows Hello logins.
Nobody Types It Better
Except for tablets like the ThinkPad X1 Fold, ThinkPads have the finest keyboards in portable computing, and the X1 Yoga is no exception. The backlit keyboard has a snappy typing feel, with cursor arrow keys in the proper inverted T and dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys, as well as handy top-row keys for controlling brightness, volume, microphone mute, and placing and ending Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams calls. You might prefer to swap the placement of the Fn and Control keys at lower left, which the supplied Lenovo Vantage utility lets you do.
Cursor jockeys have a choice of the embedded TrackPoint pointing stick, with its three buttons south of the space bar, or a smallish buttonless touchpad. Both glide smoothly and navigate easily; the pad’s quiet clicks take just the right amount of pressure.
The 4K touch screen is a highlight, with plenty of brightness, good contrast, and nicely white backgrounds. Colors are rich and well saturated (Lenovo says the display covers 90% of the DCI-P3 gamut), and fine details crystal clear. Viewing angles are broad. The skinny 5-inch pen kept up with my fastest swipes and scribbles, with good palm rejection as I rested my hand on the glass in tablet mode.
A tiny sliding shutter covers the 720p webcam, which captured noticeably soft-focus but surprisingly bright and colorful shots in low-light conditions. Speakers both on the bottom of the machine and above the keyboard pump out excellent, loud sound, with a decent amount of bass and easily distinguished overlapping tracks. Dolby Atmos software offers music, movie, dynamic, game, and voice presets and an equalizer.
Performance Testing: A 14-Inch Quintet Takes to the Track
Since we haven’t put the HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7 through our benchmark tests, I had only one recent 14-inch business convertible to compare the ThinkPad X1 Yoga to: the Dell Latitude 9410 2-in-1. So I filled out our charts with two high-end consumer convertibles (the Lenovo Yoga 9i, and the HP Spectre x360 14) and one business clamshell (the Asus ExpertBook B9450). You can see the contenders’ basic specs in the table below.
For the most part, the X1 Yoga finished in the middle of the pack, showing ample performance for office productivity and multitasking but trailing the Spectre x360 and Yoga 9i and their 11th Generation “Tiger Lake” processors. The only disappointing result was its battery life, which fell just short of eight hours in our video playback marathon—not horrible for a laptop with a bright 4K display, but clobbered by several competitors. (See more about how we test laptops.)
Productivity and Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
The ThinkPad didn’t win, but it cleared the 4,000-point hurdle that indicates superb productivity in PCMark 10. Like virtually all of today’s speedy SSDs, the five laptops’ storage drives aced our PCMark 8 measurement.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing benchmark, in which we put a stopwatch on systems as they transcode a brief movie from 4K resolution down to 1080p. It, too, is a tough test for multi-core, multi-threaded CPUs; lower times are better.
Six- and eight-core processors have gotten us used to sky-high scores in these benchmarks. These quad-core systems delivered more modest, mainstream results, but they still have more than enough power for complex spreadsheets, if not workstation-style dataset analysis or video editing.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and add up the total (lower times are better). The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters.
The X1 Yoga averaged an extra second or two per editing operation, but its gorgeous screen still makes it a solid choice for managing digital photos, assuming you can get photos onto it without an SD card slot.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and lets high-end PCs and gaming rigs strut their stuff.
These productivity-minded portables make no claim to be gaming laptops. The Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics of the Spectre and Yoga 9i are quicker than previous generations’ integrated silicon, but still no match for even a modest dedicated GPU.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene, this one rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess.
Another gaming simulation, another argument against attempting anything other than casual or browser-based games on these machines.
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop into airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender Foundation short film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.
The Dell and Asus passed the 24-hour mark, showing amazing stamina. The X1 Yoga didn’t do well—it’ll get you through most if not all of a workday away from an AC outlet, but we expect more from modern ultraportables and convertibles. The bright 4K screen is certainly part of the fast drain, but 2021 sets a higher mark.
There’s No Such Thing as a Bad ThinkPad
There’s a lot to like about the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5, and its keyboard and screen are simply as good as it gets among business convertibles. Its battery life is disappointing, but otherwise it competes admirably against enterprise alternatives from HP and Dell.
Still, if you can live without Intel vPro manageability and MIL-STD sturdiness, we can’t help thinking the Yoga 9i and Spectre x360 14 offer small offices and consumers a better deal.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 5 Specs
|Laptop Class||Business, Convertible 2-in-1|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-10610U|
|Processor Speed||1.8 GHz|
|RAM (as Tested)||16 GB|
|Boot Drive Type||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)||512 GB|
|Screen Size||14 inches|
|Native Display Resolution||3840 by 2160|
|Variable Refresh Support||None|
|Screen Refresh Rate||60 Hz|
|Graphics Processor||Intel UHD Graphics|
|Wireless Networking||Bluetooth, 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6)|
|Dimensions (HWD)||0.59 by 12 by 8.5 inches|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro|
|Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes)||7:57|